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Friday, August 29, 2008

Syed Hamid tells why Malaysia Today was blocked

As with every right thinking Malaysian, I was initially shocked when I first discovered that the highly popular Malaysia Today website was blocked under the orders of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM).

However, I was even more shocked by the government response here - http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/11945/84/. Original article in italics red, my thoughts in brackets:

(The Star) - The controversial Malaysia Today news portal was blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) because its editor ignored many warning letters, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said.

[Seng: Ok. This is interesting. Who sent the warning letters? SKMM?

What were the nature of the warning letters?

Warn the editor of what?

How many letters were sent altogether?

What were the dates of these letters?]

“When they publish things that are libellous, slanderous or defamatory, it is natural for the SKMM to act against these websites whenever necessary,” he told a a press conference at Parliament lobby yesterday.

[Seng: This is extremely puzzling.

On what basis did SKMM decide that MT contents were "libellous, slanderous or defamatory"?

Does SKMM have the same power, authority and competency as the legal courts to be able to define, decide and determine what is "libellous, slanderous or defamatory"?

Can SKMM make this decision alone and independently, to the extent of censoring Malaysia Today on the same day as the Permatang Pauh by-election day?

Or was SKMM merely following the orders of its superiors?

But then, shouldn't the SKMM - Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission - be guided by its own mandate and law especially the COMMUNICATIONS AND MULTIMEDIA ACT - http://www.msc.com.my/cyberlaws/act_communications.asp? ]

Syed Hamid said SKMM was only exercising its powers.

[Seng: Again, I am puzzled SKMM can exercise its powers on the same day as PP by-election date.

Why not exercise earlier?

What caused SKMM to suddenly feel that MT articles at approximately 6 PM, 26 August, is suddenly "libellous, slanderous or defamatory?]

“We do not intend to curtail people’s freedom or right to express themselves. Everyone is subjected to the law, even websites and blogs,” he added.

On Wednesday, Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin lashed out against the blocking of the online portal, saying it was a breach of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) charter.
Under the MSC Malaysia 10-Point Bill of Guarantees, the Government promised to “ensure no Internet censorship”.

It was reported that all 21 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country had been ordered by SKMM to block the controversial website.

The notices were sent out on Tuesday in accordance with Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

[Seng: Now, Section 263 of the Act is mentioned in this Star Article, but is this the complete truth?

Apparently, a more important Section of the Act is NOT MENTIONED by The Star in this article. Which Section is that?

Section 3 (3):

(3) Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet.

So, do you think SKMM has misinterpreted the Act?

You may read the Act in its entirity here - http://www.msc.com.my/cyberlaws/act_communications.asp]

Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, the Deputy Minister of Energy, Water and Communications, said he was not aware that SKMM had ordered ISPs to block the website.

[Wow! The Minister of Communications can be NOT AWARE of such censorship?

Tai Chi Master? (push shit away before it hits him) ]

“I do not read Malaysia Today. Media practitioners must be sensitive to culture and religion,” he said.

Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek declined comment as it was not under his jurisdiction.

[Wow! Information Minister can also claim that this is outside his jurisdiction?

So, whose jurisdiction is it then? No Minister?

Or shall we put the blame squarely on SKMM?

Certainly, Shabery Cheek exhibited good Tai Chi skills as well.]

SKMM chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi, who is overseas, declined to elaborate, saying a press conference would be held to explain why such action was taken.

[Seng: Ahh ... away overseas ....

Nice. That should buy time to explain (or concoct up a "suitable" explanation) ...

Also implies that since he is overseas, it is not him who decided ...

After all, if it was him who decided, then, surely, he could have explained the decision to ban isn't it?

But then, who made the decision to censor it, if it's not him?

Nice Tai Chi moves by the SKMM COO.]

It is understood that this is not the first time SKMM has ordered a website to be blocked.
Malaysia Today remains accessible through its mirror website.

Other Comments: I'm not a lawyer, but it seems clear to me that - to paraphrase Syed Hamid - "that some laws must be broken somewhere by SKMM or a Minister who ordered SKMM to do so".


Well, Section 3 (3) seems pretty damning.

And then, there is the most immediate question which is why the timing? Why censor at 6 PM on the same day as the PP by-election, before the result is announced?

Why not censor before?

Also, did SKMM acted independently in censoring this?

Or did SKMM acted under orders from someone else?

Who was the person who ordered it since many Tai Chi masters have pushed these problems to "someone else", without defining who that "someone else" should be ?

Does SKMM have the authority to decide what is "libellous, slanderous or defamatory"?

Does SKMM have the authority to override Section 3 (3)?

What do you think?

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